Yard signs are popping up all over the North Country: #SmallActs, they read.
The Small Acts North campaign is an effort to support, encourage and celebrate person-to-person generosity that happens throughout the region.
“I don’t think we created anything new,” said Kristen van Bergen of Lancaster, one of the organizers behind the effort. “This is a way to have a platform to celebrate what’s happening.”
“Everyone has something to offer and everyone has some sort of need,” she said. “Everyone has something to give regardless of who they are and the role that they play in our communities. This is a way to publicize the amazing ways that people are connecting with one another, first and foremost.”
It’s quite simple: do a small, kind act for someone. Make your neighbor cookies, say some nice words to a colleague, or go big and throw a barbeque in the middle of town.
And, if you want, encourage them to do the same, pass along a #SmallActs postcard to another, put up a #SmallActs yard sign, and share the story on the campaign’s Facebook page or website to inspire others. As some don’t want to be recognized, others can share anonymously for them.
“We recognized that there was a need in the community to reconnect and find ways to elevate and recognize the culture that is already here, but is maybe a bit quiet,” said Gal Potashnick of Dalton. “That is where Small Acts was born.”
The effort has formed over the past year through conversations between “Community Weavers,” a group of those who have participated in the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund’s Community Practitioners Network (CPN) leadership program.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to be part of the CPN experience,” said Kirstan Knowlton, who heads up the #SmallActs “huddle” in Berlin. “By involving others in this project, they can see the potential they have to have an impact … they don’t need to have some title or organization or some degree: it’s within them.”
A #SmallActs pilot began in Berlin, N.H. in late winter, and signs have been rolling out into Maine, Western N.H. and even over into Vermont in recent months.
A key part of the effort is accessibility.
A Tillotson Fund grant has helped to seed the campaign, allowing yard signs and postcards to be free. Materials are available at sites across the region and can also be dropped off for those with limited mobility and access to transportation.
“Before, the act of giving has really been seen more of like ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’” said Knowlton. “I think this is really breaking that down by offering a variety of ways to participate and receive materials and be involved.”
Phoebe Backler with the Tillotson Fund continues to work in partnership with the “Community Weavers.”
“We are so excited to see Small Acts and this new approach to co-investing in local community building grow,” she said.
As van Bergen notes, the program is not about the traditional flow of philanthropic funds, but rather “building up community capacity for awesomeness.”